The 11th shooting in the United States this year must be addressed more humanely
Two students were killed and 18 were injured when a fellow student opened fire at a high school in Kentucky on Jan. 23. It was the 11th shooting in the United States since the beginning of the year. Although the shooting gained major news coverage, the conversation turned to the fact that President Donald Trump seemed to take his time addressing the attack, only acknowledging it a day later on Twitter.
This slow, nonchalant response caused people on social media to question whether or not Americans are becoming numb to mass shootings. I believe many people in the United States have become desensitized to gun violence, but I don’t think they realize how deep this numbness permeates their lives.
When I visited my family in Minnesota for Christmas, I was reminded of the possibility of danger everywhere I went. When I entered malls or movie theatres, there were signs labeling the area as a gun-free zone, which I didn’t think needed to be put in writing. Even the pre-show message during movies in the United States tells you to turn off your cellphone, don’t talk during the movie and report suspicious behaviour or packages.
This paranoia is understandable, given the numerous shootings that happen in public spaces in the United States. Yet, when I pointed out how weird this was to my American relatives, they all seemed to shrug it off. I believe most Americans don’t realize that they don’t have to live their lives in fear.
In my opinion, if Americans truly wanted to protect themselves, they would proactively implement much more rigorous gun-control laws. If people were truly angry or sad about the number of shootings that occur in their country, you’d think they would feel emboldened enough to take action. Instead, we hear the same phrase whenever a shooting occurs: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.” Then everyone seems to move on.
Meanwhile in Canada, when a shooting occurs, I believe we are not as numb to this issue because we aren’t inundated by these kinds of atrocities. We don’t have to live in fear of attacks, because most Canadians have limited access to weapons. That being said, I do think we experience a level of numbness to crimes as well.
When reading about the Kentucky shooting, I was able to empathize much more with the victims’ statements than with the basic details or the political ramifications of the shooting. Yet, too often when tragic events are reported in the news, victims are reduced to numbers and the story shifts to political debates and finger pointing.
In order to revive people’s empathy towards tragic events, the human side of these stories should be the focus. We should be talking about the human beings who experienced these tragic events, the families that will never be the same and the communities that have to put themselves back together. When these stories are told, it becomes nearly impossible not to feel some kind of connection to the story and the people involved.
I believe once connections are made, we are more likely to see people taking real action and trying to make meaningful change. Teenagers died, families were broken and people were physically and mentally scarred by the events that took place on Jan. 23. That should be the focus of these stories—not the fact that the president took too long to tweet his condolences.
Graphic by Zeze Le Lin